A crowd of 140 students, faculty staff and members from organisations like Dis-Maties, the Disability Unit, and the Transformation Unit, drew together during lunch break on the 1st September for an hour of jukebox tunes, fancy dress and finger food.
This year’s Casual Day was used to stimulate conversation with disabled persons at Stellenbosch University, and the organisations that represent them, by providing an opportunity for differently abled staff and students to connect.
Wim de Villiers, the Rector of Stellenbosch University, came to the Casual Day dressed in a ship captains outfit.
“This is about as casual as I get, as I took off my tie and put on a snazzy shirt,” remarked de Villiers in his opening speech to laughs from the crowd.
“We’re here to celebrate Casual Day and this year’s theme is to celebrate diversity with persons with disabilities,” said de Villiers, who then praised the work of organisations that provide support for disabled persons.
“I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Disability Unit on their tenth anniversary… The quote on the cover of their anniversary booklet is very telling, it says: ‘I’m not broken, but merely a little different”.
“We have so much to learn from people with disabilities; those who face many obstacles, but who find a way around or through or over them because they have the will and the drive and determination to go forward.”
Ryan Johnson, a member of Dis-Maties and an organiser of Casual Day, said that the aim of the event was to “[start] the conversation about ableism, transformation and gender”.
“We also need to talk about how we make sure that people who are otherwise abled participate in our society like everyone else,” said Johnson.
Monica du Toit, a staff member at the Transformation Unit, said that “part of transformation is asking how we create a relationship with those with disabilities and really start to know one another intimately… these are one of the events where the idea is to build connections”.
Du Toit commented that in order to make spaces more accessible to those with disabilities, “we need to start to think of our lives from the point of departure of someone that is less able to use a space,” and emphasised the principle of universal design.
“The magic is to let students and staff with disabilities teach us how to make things better. So it is about buildings and spaces, but it’s also about interacting differently.”
Prizes were awarded to the best-dressed faculty, Admin A, who dressed in colourful flowers and had their faces painted to the theme of ‘rocking the daisies’.
Awards were also given to the student society Dis-Maties, who won the quiz, which tested the crowd’s knowledge of trivia related to disabilities.
At the end of the event, a jukebox was made available to the crowd to choose their favourite songs and the dance floor was opened.
Dis-Maties next event, Dinner in the Dark, will be held on the 22nd September with a three-course meal, a cash bar and live entertainment where the catch of the evening will be to eat your meal blindfolded.
Check the Dis-Maties Facebook page for updates on the event: https://www.facebook.com/DisMaties/
– Holly Charlton